Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tightwad Travel Tip - Avoid Lost Luggage

Budget Travel's e-mail newsletter printed a piece today detailing the four reasons why airlines lose our luggage and, more importantly, suggested what you can do to prevent this nightmare from happening. 

I think this suggestion is excellent.  "Ask the flight attendant handling your bag if you can see the routing information placed on the handle to verify its accuracy before she sends your suitcase down the conveyor belt."  To read all the tips, click here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tightwad Travel Tip - Trains

Travelers are told to arrive an hour or two early for a flight, but the same principle does not apply to European trains. The departure platform for your train, whether it's a local or a high-speed long distance one, will not be indicated until about fifteen minutes before boarding time.  You must hustle to reach the correct platform after it's posted, but arriving at the station much more than a half hour before the departure time is pointless and unnecessary.  

Note, however, that if you are using Eurostar, you must be at the station to check-in, thirty minutes ahead of time.  Eurostar is the only train I know of where you must check-in and then wait in their amenities-equipped (food, toilets, shops are available) area for the train.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Trip Planning Made Easy

One of the most pleasurable, but also the most tedious, aspects of planning a trip is mapping the itinerary. David and I usually have a dozen guidebooks, along with detailed notes, scattered throughout the house which we use to make sure we choose all the sites we're anxious to see along with their addresses, hours of operation, and cost. Then we plot a daily travel plan that can be accomplished by either walking or public transportation.

Our next trip will be much easier to plan, though, with the discovery of the free website This user-friendly site takes you through several steps to arrive at a detailed daily itinerary complete with maps.

The first step is to choose your city. While the site will be adding more, it currently lists only twenty cities (three in the USA, one in Canada, and the rest in Europe) frequented by tourists.

Next, you input the dates of your trip and move on to the Theme. Depending on your circumstances, you can choose Kids, Outdoor, Best Of, or Culture.

The Intensity screen asks you to decide whether you want to get up late for leisurely sightseeing, hit the street in the wee hours of the morning to pack every day full of non-stop sightseeing, or something in-between. Choices are Light, Easygoing, Moderate, Vigorous, and Extreme.

Since the site will also suggest hotels, the next screen asks how luxurious you'd like your trip to be. Tightwad Travelers will, of course, stay in an apartment but go ahead and choose an accommodation, from one to five-stars, to satisfy the program. (You do not have to make a reservation to use this service, but you cannot get to the next page without making a choice.)
Choose sites from the list. 

Then comes the fun of picking and choosing. From the list of sites, you choose what you want to see, clicking on the title for further information about unfamiliar places, and the time of day you'd like to see it. Plnnr does the rest.
A portion of one day in my finished itinerary.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Italy and Spain on $85 a Day - The Bottom Line

Resist a restaurant's lures and buy carry-out instead.

Never again will I promise "Paris on $70 a Day" or "Italy and Spain on $85 a Day." As soon as I calculate costs in January for David's and my proposed trip in the spring and I am sure every item is included down to the penny, the euro changes and all my projections are increased by 10-15%.

That's what happened again this time. We knew in January we could take this trip for $85 a day, but the dollar did not hold its value and we ended up spending, in May, closer to $98 a day. From now on, I'm simply going to promise "Travel on the Cheap" because I still believe David and I travel more frugally, and comfortably, than is possible any other way.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Italy and Spain on $85 a Day - The Apartments

Our living room in Rome
I've said more times than anyone cares to remember that the best way to save money on a vacation while not stinting on luxury is by renting an apartment.  (In case you don't know the rationale for this philosophy, see this article.)  While David and I spent a frenzied week or two researching our "homes" for this trip, all our advance work paid off in delightful rentals that made our stay in each city even more enjoyable.

Apartment reviews are usually the most important deciding factor for us; if others enjoyed the place, we probably will too.  Since they are so important, we always try to help other travelers by writing reviews of our own when we return from a trip.  Here's what we wrote and submitted to Slow Travel, VRBO, Home Away, and/or Trip Advisor about each of the places we stayed:

Rome - VRBO #282276

David and I absolutely loved our apartment in Rome! Even though it was on the outskirts of the city, tram 8, right in front of the apartment building, got us to all the tourist sites in minutes. And we enjoyed leaving the clamor of Rome behind and returning to the ambience of our peaceful neighborhood at the end of a long sightseeing day.

There's a very large open-air market next door with stands selling bread, cheese, fish, produce and a hundred other things. We LOVED this market as well as the Frontoni Restaurant across the street with the world's best lasagna, and Tony's gelato a few doors down from Frontoni.

The apartment itself is huge with three spacious bedrooms and two big bathrooms. The apartment felt cozy for the two of us yet would be spacious for a much larger group, too. The furniture and beds are all quite comfortable, while the kitchen is well-equipped.